With recent birth records indicating that some of the more traditional British names are disappearing from use altogether, it got me thinking. What’s in a name, and does it really matter that much what name you are given? Well, just try saying that to first time expectant parents, agonising over possible choices! As something you have for your whole life, I think parents are right to take their time over it.
I seem to be at that age where lots of my friends are having babies, or thinking about it. With four friends all currently at different stages of pregnancy, we are spending a lot of time bouncing different names about. And it seems that people have really different motivations for choosing or liking certain names over others. When my husband and I were thinking of names, there were quite a few key factors which shaped our thinking.
My husband is a teacher. And as any experienced teacher will tell you, after a few years certain names become off-limits. They are just too tainted by the memory of a particularly obnoxious child. Or, as with some names, the fact that certain names crop up again and again, with all the bearers being similarly badly behaved or unpleasant. Can a name really determine collective character? Strange but true, it would seem!
We were also mindful to avoid making our child’s name an easy playground target. School is hard enough without making it worse for them! So names or initials that could be shortened, lengthened or combined to make a subject to be teased over were a no-go.
We didn’t want anything too radical and unique – experience suggests that children feel pressure to either live up to the outlandishness of their name or shy away from it entirely. But then neither did we want our child to be one of four in a classroom with the same name, so that they felt like they weren’t recognised in their own right! A tough balancing act between the two extremes.
And then there is the meaning of names to consider. I was keen to avoid anything too religious in tone, and I also wanted the sentiment of the names chosen to be beautiful.
I have a good friend who has a biblical first name and Joy for a middle name. And if you knew her you would know that Joy is a perfect choice for her. She is one of those people who just sparkle, and she is one of the friendliest, loveliest, most considerate people I have ever met. Her names are beautiful, and a credit to her. But she hates both. The first because it is biblical. The second because the true meaning of the name Joy was overshadowed for her, growing up. Certain family members repeatedly reminded her that it stood for the order in which you should pray; J – for Jesus, O – for otherwise, lastly, Y – for yourself. If that doesn’t take the joy out of it I don’t know what would. So I guess I can’t blame her for not loving her name. But it does seem so sad to give a child a name and then ruin it for them for the rest of their lives.
We had a lot of possible names in the running, but when we found out we were having a baby girl we only needed to figure out what her middle name would be. We’d always known that for her first name we would honour her great granny. Luckily the name also ticks all the above boxes, otherwise it might have been a bit tricky!
I don’t know what our little girl will think of her name when she is old enough to have an opinion. Maybe she will love it, maybe she will be entirely indifferent to it. But it matters to me that as her parents we have done our very best to try to choose a name she won’t hate!